Sunday, August 20, 2017

Who will die when you die..

In November 2015, I met a Partner of my company. A "Partner" is one of the people who own a company that is legally formed as a partnership (as opposed to a corporation or other firm). He is an Indian Bengali young guy, who lives in New York, has a wife and 2 kids in family, and has had a relatively fast paced career growth graph - Senior Consultant to Manager in 2 years, Manager to Senior Manager in 3 years and Senior Manager to Partner in 5 years.
He was visiting India for one of his relations' marriage, and so he also decided to spend 3 days in our Gurgaon office, to work with and better know the members of our team that was working on one of his projects. Though it is not easy to get personal time from such a big person in one's organization, I was fortunate to have got to spend a good amount of time with him while he was in office. People at middle levels of management in an organizational hierarchy do not generally expect people at the highest levels to be so simple, grounded, and approachable, but this person nullifies such notions. He is very grounded, and very warm in meeting, greeting, and working with the relatively junior members of his team.
The incident which triggered this post was the team lunch that we planned with him on one of the days of his visit. We planned the lunch in a nearby hub of high end restaurants. But in Gurgaon, for reaching a high end restaurant in time, one has to take the simplest and cheapest means of transport i.e. is an auto-rickshaw. Considering the additional time it would take in hiring a cab, we proposed to our Partner to hire an auto-rickshaw, to reach the restaurant in time. Surprisingly, he readily accepted the proposal. 
The lunch was quick and involved general chitchatting that helped him and the members of the team get acquainted to each other. The interesting part started on the return journey to the office. We again tried to hire an auto-rickshaw, but it took more time to find one as compared to the onward journey. While trying to catch an auto-rickshaw he experienced the helter-skelter traffic of Gurgaon roads, which was very unusual for him. Vehicles were coming from both the directions on the road without following any lane rules. Crossing the road looked nothing less than an action stunt of a movie. After some time, we managed to find an auto-rickshaw and, again to my fortune, he and I boarded the same auto-rickshaw. On the way back, I asked him what is the difference in being a Senior Manager and being a Partner. He told me that the only major difference is the salary. "As a Partner, you get a serious amount of money from the company". 
Now, a common man like me, would definitely think what do we do with that ridiculously huge amount of money flowing in our bank account every month, when we are already satisfied and stable with the current salary. After all, the additional amount of money will demand our additional commitment to work, which we will not be able to afford without compromising with other qualitative aspects of life. He caught that thought and started explaining. He told me that he was not in a dire need to earn that much amount of money. But when he was offered the new role in the organization, he thought of what changes that additional amount of money could bring to his life. He told that as the main earning hand of the family, he wanted to ensure that his family is able to sustain their current lifestyle in case he meets with a misfortune of untimely death, maybe by being hit by one of the "flying" auto-rickshaw while crossing a busy Gurgaon road en-route a nearby restaurant. He told me about his financial calculations that accounted for a few million dollars for his children's full education, another few million for medical and social emergencies and remaining few for maintaining his affluent lifestyle. By the time he finished, we reached office and then we got busy with work.
However, as is the case with my philosophical self, I kept going back to his thought process of provisioning for his family in case of his sudden death. I started to think that even as a Partner, earning millions of dollars every year, he feels the need to earn more or accumulate more money, may be as an insurance or for the prosperity of his family. I earn a fraction of the money that he earns, but I still don't feel a mad need to earn more. I understand that I can't compare his lifestyle and living expenses to mine, but still I want to understand what is the general philosophy of the middle class people like me which urges us to indulge into this mad quest of earning more and more money. So I made myself the subject of this inquiry.
Do I really want to leave behind an amount of money with which my wife can pay completely for 20 years of education of my kid(s), and with which she does not need to do a job or earn for the rest of her life? Given my current situation, I will not be able to do so even if I wanted to. So, what better I can do for my family? What should I do with the additional, but not-sufficient-for-bearing-lifetime-expenses-of-family, money that I might get as I grow at work?
Sometime back, I read an article which stated, based on a research, that we increase our expenditures proportionally to the increase in our income. We upgrade our lifestyle based on the increased affordability and, in the process, never allow our money to get into the surplus zone. This happens subconsciously and so, unknowingly, we always try to keep ourselves in a financial scarcity zone. I don't want to reject out-rightly the idea of upgrading our lifestyle, but I seriously feel that it is more wise to do it in a thrifty manner. We can definitely avoid some unwarranted upgrades like expensive broadband plans, upgraded Netflix or satellite TV subscriptions, upgraded laptops, mobile phones, and data plans, more servants, more premium brands in food, clothes or house-ware etc. These things have their novel appeal and draw our peers' envy that give us a short-term satisfaction, but after some time they just become as mundane as their predecessors. Then after some time, we again feel the urge to get something new to again get the associated superficial social accreditation, so we want another upgrade, and so we again start the quest to earn more money.
I feel that for every quest of material things, we oversee some non-material qualitative aspects of our life. Over a period of time, the qualitative aspects of life are left far too behind. Even if we realize this, we are scared of putting in all the effort to bring them up-to-speed with the rest of life. To put in that effort requires us to suspend the ongoing quest of material things which we do not, thinking that this might lead to social ire or ridicule. To site an example of such ridicule, a few days back my friend's wife sneered at him for their non-smart TV saying "even Neeraj (who is otherwise a spendthrift) has a Smart TV". This even when they bought an ultra modern TV with a really big screen and latest technical specifications, at a price more than the monthly salary of many of my colleagues. While this ridicule did not affect me, it affects majority of the middle class people like me. Our public persona overpowers our innate self, and we become subject to the mad quest to earn more money to buy more material things, to not be ridiculed by our peers. I feel that we need to have a very strong bond with our innate self, so that we can resist being affected by such frivolous attacks from the external forces. To strengthen this bond, we need to ensure that we are upgrading or empowering our inner selves as we grow in the experience of life. Meditation, reading, writing or any other form of expressing our raw thoughts to the external world, and physical exercise are few tools which I think can help strengthen this bond. A strong bond with the innate self allows us to see things in a better perspective, and enables us to create and maintain a meaningful public persona, which is respected and not envied or attacked by the people around us. So the first thing that I want to ensure, if I die, is that the members of my family are able to achieve and then maintain an equilibrium of growth between the material (public persona) and non-material (qualitative) aspects of their life.
The next thing which I want to ensure is that my family is able to live the life in their own way when I am not around. I don't want them to disown whatever we created or achieved together, but I don't want them to restrict their minds to only the thoughts, dreams or plans which they made with me. In terms of financial stability, my current savings plus insurance can provide them sufficient money to continue living a decent life, rather fortunate compared to majority of the middle class families. I don't want to leave behind a humongous amount of money to pay for all of their future expenses, or for surplus to do anything they want to do in future. I don't want to leave behind a financially rich but stupid and helpless family. I want it to be an intelligent, independent, confident and courageous family which can deal with the difficult situation of losing an important member, and which can still continue to provide for its remaining members and keep itself happy. Even if I don't leave behind any money, which will not be the case though, my family should be able to live up to the challenge, earn money, and not only save it but grow it with its own efforts and planning. And again, in this intensified quest of money for survival, it should be able to carry its innate self along. So, apart from investing in a good insurance policy to cover majority of the financial risks, I want to spend or rather invest an equal amount of money in training my family to be able to handle more responsibilities and the associated pressure. So how to plan this training? I think training in yoga or some sport can be a good tool to imbibe a culture of physical well being. Similarly, meditation or stress management courses can aid in mental well being. Personality development programs, habit of reading books - self-help, fiction, non-fiction or current affairs, can help in social well being. Finally, some vocational or professional training can help in adding to the financial prosperity. So, rather than spending in material upgrades, I want to invest my additional income in upgrading the skills of my currently dependent family members and try make them more independent. 
The last thing is to mitigate the social impact on the family. In India, any sudden personal development is met with a lot of unwarranted involvement by the society, which soon converts into tremendous social pressure. Usually, social setups provide us a sense of security, support, and connection to the society, but at times the obligations and differences of opinions can inflict tremendous stress. So, apart from the financial support and skill training, I want to create a rational social environment for my family. For instance, just imagine how awkward it would be for you to discuss your or your partner's death in your family. I can also imagine the reaction of my immediate family if and when they read this post. They will get extremely worried and react like anything :). However, I feel that if not too often, we should at least once discuss this contingency with our family. After being dead, we can't help our family, or give them any perspective about our death. So why not talk about it at least once, while you are alive. For example, if I die say tomorrow, I don't want my wife to remain a widow for the rest of her life, just because the society may not interpret her decision correctly, and may curse her, and may make her life miserable. I want her to have the freedom and courage to make an intelligent choice on whether or not to marry another person. For me, it will not be about replacing me or forgetting me after my death, it will be about whether or not my wife and my children need another companion to lead a happier and better life. On the other hand, if she feels that she is capable of taking care of herself and kids all by herself, then "widow" will be just a word like other meaningless terms like "baniya","punjabi" (castes in Indian society) etc. Extremely awkward and uncomfortable thoughts in these last few lines, but that's how the expressions are unleashed :). Decision of re-marriage is just one such decision that has social implications, there might be other decisions as well like whether to live with parents or in-laws or in a separate house, whether to work or not work and so-on. I want every member in my family to respect and accommodate every other member's thoughts, and take collective rational decisions in such emotionally difficult times.
I think that if I am able to achieve the above mentioned things for my family, and not just a huge amount of money, then I will be able to say "Only I will die when I die, and my family will survive and still thrive"..

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Target 2031..

My friends and colleagues always tell me one thing about myself, that I try to plan everything. Most of the things in my life - routine or non-routine are planned, and I am somewhat blessed that I am able to execute almost all of my plans. I can brag about this trait, but I also have to admit that sometimes my planning is freaky enough to piss off people around me.
However, this post comes as a result of the thought process that I went through while making a major decision of switching my company and the place of living. I had to move from a big brand to a small, relatively young company, and from a sub-urban town in North India to a cosmopolitan city in South India. So a lot of thought went into evaluating what was promised against what I was leaving behind. My then life was pretty stable, following aspects attributed to the stability:
  • I had good reputation in office, and my job was secured for at least another three to four years.
  • My wife had a stable job, she was able to manage both the job and the household responsibilities.
  • I frequently visited family and relatives, especially Bauji.
  • I had a good local social circle, which included influential people.
  • I also started playing badminton after a gap of almost five years, the gap being attributed to my slip-disc injury in Jan 2011.
However, the switch had following things to offer to me:
  • A better opportunity to hone my technical and professional skills, with a 20% increase in the take home salary.
  • A better chance to travel to US, for work. That also offered a chance to pursue my philosophical interest of exploring new geographies, and different cultures, to get more perspectives about life.
  • A better city to live, better in terms of the climate, social setup and career opportunities.
  • A chance to move away for the pollution, which is both environmental as well as cultural, in the north region of India.
  • A chance to move away from the stress that resulted from the over-involvement of relatives in mundane aspects of life.
While I discussed these points with my wife and family, I also discussed these with one of my colleague cum friends, who happens to have a similar approach towards life as me. He and I went to office very less, otherwise working from home, and made sure that we were in office on the same day so that we could have our philosophical discussions on the post-lunch stroll. While he appreciated my decision to make the change, he asked me one question - for how long we would keep doing this, that is keep working in the software/IT industry and keep making such switches every few years?
The question triggered a chain of questions in my mind. The immediate next question that came up was that where do I want to reach at the end of this current journey of working in the IT industry. If I can't think of the final destination, is this journey joyful enough that I can chose to be the traveler for the rest of my life. I thought of where I will reach if I travel for another 15 years on this journey. And so began the plan "Target 2031".

After 15 years, on the career front, I might become a Senior Manager or a Partner or a CEO in a company, and my salary might be 35-40 lac rupees or more. And on the social front, I might be having a high stature, I might be living in a luxury villa in a posh society in a cosmopolitan city. However, how would my "jigsaw" of life look like? I might be struggling to give time to my real "self". One thing that many might agree about the private sector companies is that they will not pay you a single penny for which they cannot squeeze out profit from you. And to generate profits proportional to a 35 or 40 lac rupees salary, I know that I will be spending my time either banging my head on a computer or into the asses of people to get more business. So I thought, can I just abruptly end this journey and do something else, the answer was "No". I am used to a particular pattern of spending, and have a family. The decisions that I make will have a direct impact on the people closely associated with me. I could have taken the brute force approach if I had been single, but now I have a wife whose future will also be impacted from the decisions that I make today.

So to plan a nice end to the journey, I first thought of my final destination i.e. where do I want to end up in next 15-20 years. I am not attracted to the materialistic life of Indian cosmopolitan cities, mall culture, and the existing so-called high society things. They seem very futile to me. To me what matters is to have a very healthy and stress free lifestyle, in a place very close to the "mother" nature, and have a lot of perspectives to see life. I feel very strongly that, in India, majority of the middle class people end up spending a big fraction of their savings in hospitals. For a minor heart attack, people end up spending 4-5 lac rupees within a matter of weeks. The current approach of the middle class society goes like this - start earning money, start filling your savings account, take a house loan to buy a house when you have sufficient savings to pay for down payment, keep thinking about whether or not the investment and the loan were worth the returns, start saving again as previous savings went in to down payments, work more to earn more as the savings are now less because of the EMI(so called "easy" monthly installments), ignore health and other aesthetic aspects of life temporarily to give more time to work more, ignore health and peace of mind more, capitalize on the high ground gained at work and in society, then fall sick and give all the money that was saved from the sprint to the hospital, and then start saving again when you get back on your toes after the ailment. I seriously don't want to live in this thought-less loop.

I have been fortunate that some things happened that gave me a better perspective towards life and I could identify the vicious circle of self-destruction that the society is living in. Apart from reading a few philosophical epics during starting phases of my professional career, I recently did a course of natural-therapy to treat my aggravated asthma. The concept of natural therapy lies in the belief that if the body is made up of 5 basic elements - air, water, soil, fire and prana (life), then it can be treated, for majority of the ailments, by balancing the 4 physical (air, water, soil, fire) and 1 psychological (life) basic elements. Also it can be saved from any ailments by maintaining a balance between these elements. I did the course for a few months, and to my surprise, the dosage of steroid which I used to take in case of asthmatic attacks went down from 800 mg per day to 200 mg every other day. I was amazed to see that what Allopathy could not do in 25 years was done by this course in a few months, that too without any medications. After undergoing the treatment, my approach towards my body was simplified, in the sense that I ate what was best for my body. That simplified and beautified a lot many things about the 5th element i.e. life. The course helped me adapt a semi-yogic lifestyle, semi because I have not been able to control some of my cravings. I realized that if I follow this lifestyle for the rest of my life, my chances of getting seriously ill will be considerably reduced. So I will not have to save a large amount of money for medical expenses, although some amount would still give a cushion for any unforeseen developments. The next thing that would require money will be the children's education. I have always been a strong advocate of the belief that schools or colleges impart only 50% of the required education to the children, the rest 50%, which comprises of the basic well-being and sanskar is imparted at home. If we think that by getting our children admitted to the most expensive school ends our responsibility in terms of their education, we are seriously wrong. So I plan to invest a good amount of time in imparting them sanskar, and put them in a decent school that imparts good education at a reasonable fee. The last thing that would remain will be the basic needs of the family as a whole, and the infallible attachment to certain materialistic desires. I can understand that I cannot be perfect, else I would be God. But I feel that if I try more to adapt to the yogic lifestyle, and try to educate my complete family on this lifestyle, I can reach a better level in disassociating myself and my family from material but immaterial things. I have been able to attain a little bit of the success in this respect, by convincing my wife also to adopt a semi-semi-yogic lifestyle.

The natural therapy and the semi-yogic lifestyle have enabled me to look at the aesthetics of life, and made me realize that a simple life is the most beautiful one. So, rather than setting a goal to become a robot who works for 15 hours a day and earns a hell lot of money with no time for feelings, I set a simpler and more beautiful life goal for myself, the "Target 2031", and here is the plan:
  1. I save money having a value proportional to 30 lac rupees of today, for any medical emergencies in the family.
  2. I lay a good foundation of my children, in terms of sanskar, basic well-being, academics and extra curricular activities. Once they become 15-16 years old, I will let them develop their own philosophy of life. Their sanskars should protect them from going in a rationally wrong direction.
  3. I earn sufficient money to buy a piece of land in some hilly area, build my wooden house there, build a very small farm in the front yard to grow vegetables, keep a cattle for pure milk and a few servants to assist in daily activities. While I will start with this for living peacefully in my own personal space, I may later convert it to a home-stay to serve guests who have a desire to take a philosophical break from their high octane lives. A home-stay would help me earn money to meet the day to day expenses, and it will allow me to gain different perspectives by interacting with different people.
Recently, I have been discussing this plan with a lot of people around me. They feel good listening to it but not to my surprise, they believe it is just talks. I feel how ironical is that, they don't believe that they can give up something complex to get something that is simple and beautiful. Let's see how I fare in executing this plan. What do you think, will I be able to execute this plan?

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Women Empowerment", "Gender Equality" and stressed Indian "WorkingWomen"..

I recently read the results of a survey that showed that women in India are more stressed than the women in any other country. The percentage of women who consider themselves stressed in India was reported around 87%, as compared to 17% in US which is the country with maximum percentage of working women. I understand that the universality of these surveys can be questioned, but still the results can't be assumed to be wrong in entirety. This led to a series of thoughts in my mind, which I am blurting out here. I understand that science has dedicated branches, like psychology and sociology etc., to study shifting mindsets of people and society at large. However, I would like to put forward my views based on my knowledge and life experience.

Today, in any corner of India, we can hear educated people talk about "Women Empowerment" and "Gender Equality". Being educated myself, I completely support these concepts. But like any other make-shift idea, like Adhaar or the universal identity program launched by Indian govt., I believe that these ideas need to be carefully understood before actually adopting or implementing them.

We have been taught in our schools, how in ancient times Indian women were oppressed and were subject to the social rituals like "Sati Pratha" (the act of cremating a live lady along with her husband if latter died) or "Parda" (women hiding their face while meeting people or not meeting people at all). These oppressive rituals and practices went away with time, but still women were not given a major say in social activities or decisions, not even in sensitive things like family planning.
In the traditional household setup, men would go out in the morning and then spend the whole day trying to earn resources to sustain family, while women would spend the whole day cleaning the house, cooking up meals, and serving the children. Men only would plan the future of the family based on their limited awareness of the outside world, limited because they would have seen world only in the perspective of their work. With growing kids and increasing size of family, men would get occupied in the struggle to earn more resources, while women would continue to do the same old household work. Eventually the disparity in terms of the awareness, between men and women grew so much that women were reduced to the meager followers of what men demanded them to do. This resulted in a shift of center of power towards men, which first resulted in corruption of mind and then the debacle of the society.

With the gradual growth of education and awareness, an intellectual class grew in India which developed a progressive thinking. People started realizing how women could play a better and a more important role in the prosperity the family. They realized that if women were aware, they could actually run the entire family by planning an efficient use of the resources earned by men. This could result in a proper balance of power - men earn resources and other essentials, women plan and spend those resources to sustain life and make it more beautiful. With this balance of power, women could hold a position equally important to that of men in the social world. And that's how the terms "Women Empowerment" and "Gender Equality" came up. With this history behind these two concepts, I feel that these ideas have been either misunderstood or not understood at all by majority of the Indian women.

As per my observation, majority of the modern women would describe these terms as below:
  • Women Empowerment - To enable women to work and earn money, and thus have a say in family or society.
  • Gender Equality - To enable women to work and earn as much money as men can, to have the same importance and respect as men.
They consider talking about household as demeaning their education. They will never talk about the "balance" of life. They associate social "importance" to "money" and "social relevance" to "the capability to earn money". I can understand that in old times, importance and social relevance were associated to money. But I also understand that the people who did this faulty association were uneducated and unaware. We can't claim that we are educated, and deserve to be "empowered" and "equal", if we still hold such faulty associations true in our minds.
I can understand that with men busy outside and women busy only in household, the flower of life could not blossom, but it was still watered and alive. Now, with the misunderstood concept of "working women", both men and women are busy earning money and the house is locked up. Like the house, children are also ignored. Because of lack of parental guidance in formative years, they end up either being ignorant or getting carried away by the exciting and misguiding external influences. With parents fighting the world and children mired in ignorance, the flower of life dies.
There are certain biological facts that we cant change. For e.g. men cant give birth, they cant feed or raise a new born. Labor pain and motherhood are the biggest responsibilities of women, in which men can provide extreme moral support but they cannot play a major role even if they want to. With these biological facts, we need to understand that "work" or "job" is also a big responsibility which demands extreme commitment. So if women want to work, they have to mentally and physically train themselves to be able to handle both these responsibilities. Without the physical and mental preparation, if women take up these tasks, they'll not be able to maintain the balance of life and will fall. They can't just focus on "work" and ignore the "house" or "family", and vice-versa. They can blame men for not being cooperative, but they need to understand that it's the lack of their mental preparation that they could not garner support from men or family. And I don't think that educated Indian men have such corrupt minds that they don't want to help their better-halves in achieving what they want.
We need to realize that we were born to live, not to earn money and importance. When we live, and when we get educated, we develop a thought of how we want to further live. Life looks beautiful only if we are able to live it the way we want to live it. Money is just one of the means to attain the beauty of life. We forget that "money" is not important, the "beauty of life" is.
With our education and intellect, we need to define what our "life" is and how we want to live it. There's no harm in being selfish and pursuing higher career goals, but then we should not be impacted or stressed by what society throws at us. We can opt for pursuing a high profile career and not allow to get forced into a socially demanding ways of living. But if we can't ignore the social aspect, we need to understand that we need to  maintain the balance between "work", "house" and 'family" to sustain life. And to maintain that balance, if we have to compromise with our "job", we should not think that we are loosing our "power" or "position" in the society.
To take an example from my personal life, my mother is a post-graduate from a reputed college, and a housewife. If I try to recapture from the time of my consciousness, had she not focused only and only on my father, my sister and me, all of us would have never been able to attain the stable and healthy life that we are living now. She put in all her education and intellect in "beautifying" our family, and our home. She is "empowered" to take any decisions, be it property or any other major spending, and has saved a substantial household budget from and for family expenses. While I cherish my father's guidance on how to deal with the practicalities of life, I "equally" cherish my mother's guidance on moralities and proper ways of domestic living. And that's what brings respect to her and to our entire family.
Like I said in my last post, life is a jigsaw with work, family and self as its various pieces. Working women should try to look at the various pieces of the picture of their life, and hold the pieces together to maintain the beauty of their life. If they do so, they'll feel the harmony and no "stress" between all aspects of life..

Friday, November 13, 2015

The jigsaw of life ..

I recently got promoted from Consultant to Senior Consultant. As soon as I got over with celebrations and started settling into the new role at work, my mind started thinking "What next? What should be my next career goal?". While contemplating, I started introspecting and looked at myself from an unemotional, external, critical mind. 
I got a bird's eye view of my life, in which it looked like a "jigsaw" made up of following pieces:
  1. Work - the economic support for survival
  2. Wife - the companion of life for joys and sorrows
  3. Parents - the foundation
  4. Bauji - the connection to the ethical, social and cultural roots
  5. Relatives - the responsibilities
  6. Self - the surreal desires
When I thought more deeply about it, I realized that this jigsaw started with being a single piece "portrait" of "Parents". Then, as I grew up, more pieces were added to this "portrait" that turned it into a "landscape". The chronological order in which these pieces were added is - Parents, Self, Work, Wife, Bauji, and Relatives. The jigsaw of my life looks beautiful, at least as of now :), because there exists a harmony between the new pieces which were added and the ones which already existed.
When taking a decision in any of the life's constituent aspects, or forthcoming aspects e.g. "Children" in mine :), we need to make sure that the decision maintains or rather strengthens the harmony between all aspects. For e.g., when it comes to "Work" and to the questions like 'What should be my next career goal?", we cannot simply decide from the professional perspective - higher salary, more revered job profile, fast paced career growth etc. Such opportunities often excite us, but we cannot ignore the fact that if the "piece" of "Work" were lifted even slightly above the rest of the "pieces", the whole picture of life will look distorted.
Having put forward a very picturesque theory of making apt decisions, I hope I am able to make a right decision for my next career goal :). Thanks for reading this, I hope to get acquainted with some interesting and beautiful "jigsaws" of lives of some of you, and will definitely let you know whether my next career goal beautified or distorted my "jigsaw" of life :)..

Monday, November 2, 2015

Go for "old", you'll find "gold"..


This pic is of my dearest and oldest friend, who recently turned 92, on 12th Oct. He retired as joint registrar from Haryana Cooperative Society in 1981, and has authored three books and a thesis on "Cooperative Banking". Besides these, he has many accomplishments on academic and professional fronts, which I would have remembered if my brain had the same retention capacity as his. My friendship with him is about two years old, and is attributed to my moving to Gurgaon in April 2013. Prior to that we were just acquaintances, knowing each other as grandfather and grandson.

As a grandson, I knew him as an old man who yearned for respect and emotional care from his family. His story is same as that of many other old people in the typical middle-class Indian households, I can claim that the story is common. And not just their immediate children, but all grown-ups in their bloodline should be equally accused for such plight of the elders.

In the current competitive world, and the resultant fast-paced life, we feel that our time is "gold" and we should spend it only on something that promises high returns. We spend a few carats of this time on our parents because they are the source of money for our education, or will attend to us when we are ill, or will attend to our infants when we will be busy chasing higher professional goals. We spend another few carats on our spouses or love mates because they will provide us company for parties, vacations and shopping, or will help fulfill our physical desires. We spend some on our children coz they might get distracted and may do harm to either themselves or to the family reputation. We cannot ignore our colleagues because they will help us climb the sky-high ladders at work. We even fear offending our maids coz if they abandon us, then we will have to spend a portion of our "gold" in maintaining the house. But we don't realize that with this materialistic gain oriented mindset, we have spent all our gold and have become worthless.

My father always wanted to do his due as a son to keep Bauji (as my grandfather is called) with him, with respect and care. He fought hard against the materialistic mindset, but lost. Until two years back, I could not help Bauji because of multiple factors - focus on career and girlfriend being the prime ones other than the lack of right maturity level. But after completing 4 years of job for my both employers (company and girlfriend), and after getting involved in major decisions related to family property and investments, I had the appropriate maturity level to make 2 switches - join a "big four" multi-national company in Gurgaon and become a "family man". Apart from renovating our 18 year old house, doing single-handed planning of my marriage, helping my in-laws in extreme times, and planning and organizing my sister's marriage, I also became Bauji's confidant and thus his best friend.

Believe me, it did not take a lot of effort to befriend him. All I needed was to drive 40 kms, every or alternate weekend, to meet him and then just listen to him for an hour or so. Whenever I met him, he used to say "bada accha lagta hai tu har weekend aa jata hai, mil jata hai, dil ko tasalli ho jati hai". I realized how my small effort of just driving 40 kms is giving so much happiness to Bauji. He did not ask for any favors that demanded labor or expenditures, he just wanted to know that things are normal in my and my family's life. Then he would share what has been going on in his mind for the last one week. His thoughts could be anything - short stories from his life where he stuck to his principles and not giving in to distractions, care for a few of the 55 odd descendants in his bloodline, thoughts on current mindset of the society, or thoughts on the current affairs being reported in the newspapers.

I am blessed to have realized that his thoughts are actually the "mine" which supplies to me the "ore" to generate my "gold". Though I can't imbibe all his principles, but having imbibed a few has helped me develop an intellect to take judicious decisions in my life. And then he has given me a few golden words, in the form of his sayings which, whenever I have tried to tell others, have helped me shine like a diamond in the dark.

I will end this with one such golden saying of his - "Present Thanks are Future Invitations". So thank you for reading this post and allowing me to share my thoughts with you. I hope you will spread the thought if you like it..

Monday, June 17, 2013

Take a pause...

Hey friends, I know it's been long but lets see if this post finds some readers..

Today while sitting in my small rented room, which they call "studio apartment" in Gurgaon, it just struck me to check if this blog still exists. To my amazement, it does. When I went through my previous posts, I leaped into that world of thoughts to which I had not given a visit for the past 4 years of my life. It may look cliched, but I couldn't help but to think about the changes that have come in my life, and in the lives of the few people with whom I have been keeping in touch once in an year, or so, over the last 4 years. I am taking a pause from my daily thoughtless life, thinking about what I have done and how I've evolved over the past few years, and this starts my drive to draw some general pattern from how our lives might have changed.

I still remember that I started writing this blog to:
1. Improve my grammar, for CAT 2009.
2. To share my thoughts, which were more philosophical than pertaining to the general blogging trend that stuck to expressing views over political or demographic developments happening around.
3. To maintain a "bro book" kinda thing to capture memories of my best friends from college.
4. To remind me to "take a pause" and come back to this "world of thoughts" sometime while running full throttle in my busy life.


With this post, I feel that I am effecting the cause mentioned in the 4th point. The other 3 being slightly touched upon in the past, this gives me some sense of achievement in fulfilling all the goals. Please bear with me for this philosophical stuff, those who survive till the end of the post are entitled to my gratitude.

One of the reasons I come back to this blog is that I have recently realized that over the years my reading has taken a back seat in my daily class of activities. While preparing for CAT, I found this new love for reading. Starting with Chetan Bhagat's youth stories, and Dan Brown's fiction I somehow came across The Fountain Head, and from then on started on a journey towards philosophical enlightenment. The Fountain Head was followed by The Algebra of Infinite Justice, I'm OK you're OK, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Lila, and self help books from the likes of Ken Blanchard and Robin Sharma. All these books were like a Pandora's box which gave me a never-before-thought and unique perspective towards life. It groomed my personality, widened my Circle of Influence (leadership institute training at Infosys Mysore) and, I'm not bragging, built a credible Brand Image of me among my peers. I attribute all my professional success and rational thought development to the learning received from these books.

However, the wonderful journey of enlightenment didn't continue as I wanted it to, and I got distracted by other quests of my life.

It is in this "pause" that I recognize the distraction. If I think of the possible causes of this distraction, they could be:
1. The end of college that put me in that sad mood of missing the happening life, outside the protective umbrella of family.
2. The blinding joy of getting employed and earning money for "the first time".
3. Start of my first relationship, that shot the testosterone levels so high that there was no turning back :).

And now if I think about how far that distraction took me from "enlightenment", I reach my present which is:
1. Working with a Big Four MNC, earning approx. 10 lacs, with a slip disk, fat cheeks, pouted belly, and the big question "will I be able to plan my future with this salary?", and another question "when will I be physically fit again?"
2. Managing family properties, planning investments, and feeling the heat of complicated family problems and responsibilities.
3. Serving "Pyar ka Punchnama", believe me there's only one difference - I'm called "baby" instead of "babu".

I wished I had elongated this "pause", but it seems there's still some waiting when the "pause" becomes routine and the meaningless routine becomes a "pause". With these "unleashed expressions" coming to light, I think I can trace the way back to the source of this light. Wish me luck, see you soon...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roles

Training is over and as a happy surprise I'm going to be paid just for warming my seat (better say bench :)) in my office, atleast for the next 2 weeks.
Enjoying the SARKARI feel in the PRIVATE NAUKRY, a sweet memory from my training period at Mysore came to my mind. Here it is..

Stream training was over and we were free to enjoy, to be happy, to do whatever we felt like doing or to not to do any damn thing (the last one being the most popular thought). But as the weekend next to our Stream Compre Exam passed, I found an unpleasant, and a completely unexpected, emptiness surrounding me. In this emptiness came the realisation that quite contrary to my frustu beleif that the only role we played during the training was that of some fortunate under-privileged students being paid by the company for OUR learning, all of us were playing some very small but an important role in each others' lives. These roleplays were overlooked because of the immense workload, but, through this post, i just dont want them to go unnoticed. Now when i look back at these roleplays, and their players, a nice little smile comes on my face & that makes this memory very pleasant. These roles helped me sail through the EXTREME training and also helped me learn a lot of things apart from the usual # include and other such freaking stuff.. Here i mention a few of those very lovable roles:

The Stand Up Comedian, who presented some very serious facts about "how our asses gonna be brutally beaten up during the training" in the most comical way possible. The laziest leech and a hardcore Sachin fan, and the one who definitely knew how to make his friends smile.. A natural leader, and a man with a tremendous respect for women.

The tea-time critic of Infosys, govt policies and GALS. A walking encyclopaedia of current affairs. HARYANVI aur CHAI are the perfect combination for a stress-bursting afternoon break.

The 5-pointer devil who simply enjoyed telling us about the vastness of the assignments and the projects lying ahead. Also, the most cunning DEALER when it came to MONOPOLY (a flash game we played during the training).
The most irritating OSHO, whom I called DADA, who was at the receiving end of the regular beating by his peers, constantly abused, but still had all of us as his followers. The most hated but still the most accepted Project Leader of our POST project.

The coolest and the most tension-free SLEEPING SHEEP (with a smile ;)), who just didnt have any idea about what was happening throughout our project, but still managed to complete the training comfortably.
The semi-HARYANVI fan of historical leaders, who always had his "flying high" experiences of "drugs" and other such "far-from-our-thinking-domain" stuff for all of us.

It was a nice little experience of life with all these fellows, and getting posted to Chandigarh DC with a few of them promises another pleasant experience ahead. I do hope that I also played some role in their lives, so they remember me the same way they all will be remembered by me.. :)